An American road trip re-imagined

Girl Pictures showcases Justine Kurland’s poetic, turn-of-the-century photo series of teenage runaways

Candy Toss, 2000, by Justine Kurland, from Girl Pictures (Aperture, 2020)
Candy Toss, 2000, by Justine Kurland, from Girl Pictures (Aperture, 2020) | Image: © Justine Kurland

It was the words of the beat poets and the photographs of 20th-century titans such as Robert Frank and William Eggleston that made the idea of the American frontier road trip so iconic. It’s this – historically masculine – mythology that American photographer Justine Kurland set out to reclaim in her groundbreaking series Girl Pictures. Shot between 1997 and 2002, the images (all staged by Kurland) depict groups of teenage girls travelling the road, on the run. They make fires under the stars, mess around in derelict cars and shake the petals from cherry trees. 

Shipwrecked, 2000, by Justine Kurland, from Girl Pictures (Aperture, 2020)
Shipwrecked, 2000, by Justine Kurland, from Girl Pictures (Aperture, 2020) | Image: © Justine Kurland
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The series, along with a selection of newly discovered and unpublished works by Kurland, are gathered together in a new book, published by Aperture. “Revisiting these photographs now, 20 years later,” she writes, “I am confronted by a standing army of teenage runaway girls, deployed across the American landscape, at a time when they need each other more than ever. ‘So what?’ they say. ‘We’re never coming back.’”

Pink Tree, 1999, by Justine Kurland, from Girl Pictures (Aperture, 2020)
Pink Tree, 1999, by Justine Kurland, from Girl Pictures (Aperture, 2020) | Image: © Justine Kurland

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